Communities from other faiths which were 23 percent of the total population at the time of Pakistan’s inception are now reduced to 2 – 3 percent. What is it that we are doing wrong? What is it that forces a good chunk of the population to leave its homeland?
by Samia Ijaz
The title of this blog could come off as fascinating for the reason that it is an unpopular opinion that minorities are still oppressed in Pakistan. Pakistan gained independence on 14th August 1947, but minority communities are still ostensibly suffering at the hands of the majority, a scenario to which the government policies lend little good if at all. From 23 percent, at the time of partition, the percentage of minorities in Pakistan has declined to 3-4 percent of the total population. The fundamental rights of minorities have been sabotaged for decades. They are exposed to hostile attitudes not only in academic institutes, workplaces, and worship sites but even after their deaths. Minorities have played an important role in the establishment of Pakistan, from business to academics, politics to armed forces, they have immensely contributed in every field. Sir Zafrullah Khan, who belonged to the Ahmadiyya community, was appointed as the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan. Jogendra Nath Mandal (a Hindu), was one of the founding fathers of Pakistan and became Pakistan’s first Law and Labour Minister. Likewise, Alvin Robert Cornelius – born to a Christian English speaking family, not only served as the fourth Chief Justice of Pakistan but was also awarded Hilal-i-Pakistan. Dr. Abdus Salam is the first and only Pakistani Nobel Laureate in the field of science, however, he became a victim of prejudice and radicalism for being an Ahmadi, which pushed him to leave the country. The bigotry and fanaticism characteristic of an approach held towards minorities is increasing day by day in Pakistan and it is noted as the most important factor in them fleeing the country.
The recent bills introduced in the Punjab Assembly of Pakistan (2020) have become a new threat for the minorities residing in Pakistan. This new wave of Islamization in the country will further worsen the inter-religious harmony situation and might generate conflict among different sects. These bills can serve to shrink the space further for an already persecuted Hindu, Christian, and Ahmadi communities as they can face aggression if the trend of religious intolerance is to continue. The recent illegal instance of killing a man in a courtroom for being supposedly under a blasphemy charge is just the tip of an iceberg. This fundamentalism and radicalization is taking Pakistan towards inevitable destruction. If this cycle continues, soon people will kill each other in the name of religion without any fear of being punished by law.
The government needs to draft and implement policy guidelines so as to control the extremist tendencies in people. There could also be a proper audit on the funding of Madrassas and a policy framework on reviewing their curriculum. They should be taught more about peace and tolerance instead of extremism and hate-based ideologies, so in future youth does not try to take law in their own hands and attempt to attack, assassinate or lynch others especially minority community members in the name of religion. The Judicial System could also be revamped a bit, in order to facilitate fair trials on a speedy basis and ensure that a swift prosecution of culprits takes place.
Last but not the least, there should be campaigns on electronic and social media that promote unity, peace, tolerance, and empathy among the citizens, regardless of their religion. As the Founder of the Country is his speech said:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”